Separation anxiety case study – Alfie (Cockapoo)

I worked with Alfie the Cockapoo and his lovely humans on his separation anxiety for a month from 14th February 2023. They had previously worked with someone else who was not a separation anxiety specialist and sadly the methods he used did not result in any improvement, and they were feeling really stressed and concerned about it. As a young couple who are getting married this year, not being able to go out and leave Alfie alone was very stressful.  This is Alfie!

In our initial assessment Alfie showed anxiety when his people were getting ready to go out – he was circling around them in the hall when shoes were being put on, and running between the hall and living room. Then at 2 seconds after the front door closed, he ran away from the door, whining started at 9 seconds which quickly escalated to high pitched whines, then barks and then to howling. I ended the assessment at 1 minute 20 seconds (which is not the time he is comfortable – the initial assessment is about getting information), and when they came back in Alfie jumped all over them through stress.

Below is a video of the initial assessment (warning – there are barking and howling noises):

Week 1

In our reassessment after 1 week, Alfie showed a good deal of progress. He followed to the door and stood there, tail up with a slight tail wag (this can be a sign of stress in this context). 2 seconds after the door closed he moved closer to the door, did a small whine but then sat down! I did not want to push it and wanted the absence to end while he was still sitting, so I ended the absence at 35 seconds. A wonderful achievement after just 1 week! Below is a video:

Week 2

In our week 2 reassessment Alfie followed to the door and tried to sneak out with them! But once the front door had shut, he wagged his tail around 9 seconds then sat down.  At 1 minute 23 seconds, he let out a small whine, still sitting down, and that’s when I texted his people to come back, and the front door opened at 1 minute 36 seconds

A big improvement on 2 weeks ago!

Week 3 – a week of wins!

Week 3 was where we saw multiple wins for little Alfie! On 8th March he stayed IN HIS BED, for an absence of 1 MINUTE 40 SECONDS! The whole time! He did not get out of his bed at all!!!

And in the reassessment at the end of week 3 Alfie did great – he did follow to the door but very slowly, and didn’t appear in the hallway until 9 seconds after the door closed (previously he would run to the hallway immediately). He stood close to the door for quite a few minutes, sniffing the crack of the door, and at 3 minutes 7 seconds after the door shut he sat down. He did do a small whine at the same time. Then at 4 minutes 25 seconds he LAY DOWN! First time ever and a huge milestone for Alfie! I wanted to end the absence while he was still lying down so after a text from me, the front door opened after an absence of a whopping 4 minutes 52 seconds!!

Below is a video of the week 3 reassessment – its the whole nearly 5 minutes so you can always fast forward!

A small regression….

A few days later Alfie had a day where he really struggled, and started whining after 14 seconds of alone time, which then escalated to running back and forth, and then howling, and Alfie’s people came in early, rightly so.  This was a worrying time for Alfie’s people, as there was a concern for them that he was right back at the beginning again.

However, I know this kind of thing happens A LOT. Regressions, set backs and ‘off days’ are a regular occurrence in separation anxiety work.  I lowered the criteria of his sessions for a couple of days, ensuring they were super easy for him and he soon got back to where he had been!

…leading onto a big win!

Indeed on 16th March I got sent a video of Alfie from their evening training session, and he was the most relaxed ever! He stayed lying down in the living room until he heard the front door close, then he followed and stood by the door. After 7 seconds he sat down, and then at 15 seconds he LAY DOWN and remained laying down! Although he had lay down once before, it took him over 4 minutes to lie down, whereas today he felt comfortable enough to lie down so soon…see video below:

 

The final reassessment

The very next day Alfie had his final 4 week reassessment, and it is fair to say he absolutely smashed it! After very slowly following to the hall he still stood close to the door until about 1 minute 43 seconds, at which point he sat down. Then at 2 minutes 47 seconds he LAY DOWN (with a small whinge but nothing to be too concerned about), and he remained there, lying down, relaxed until I texted his people to come back when I heard a small whine at 11 minutes 10 seconds. However, then he rested his head down a bit, and stayed there lying down until the front door opened at 11 MINUTES 45 SECONDS! A huge achievement for this little guy!

Below are a couple of clips from his final reassessment (I didn’t put the whole video up as assumed watching a video of a dog lying down for nearly 12 minutes is not that exciting for most people! For me, however, its hugely exciting!):

Below is a graph to highlight Alfie’s journey over the past month and the progress he has made!

Alfie’s people are going to try and move the protocol forward on their own now, and know that I am here if they need any help. They have done so well at sticking to the programme and trusting the process, and I cant wait to hear how Alfie is doing!

Alfie’s people said:

Before we found Angela we were gradually losing hope that we would ever be able to leave Alfie alone. Angela was so patient, understanding and flexible in her approach. She was always on hand to help with our queries and, more importantly, contain our stress. For the first time since we got Alfie we are seeing some real progress and we couldn’t do it without her!”

If you would like help working through your dog’s separation anxiety please get in touch! If you complete the form on the page linked below, I will be in touch to arrange an initial call to have a chat: Remote Online Separation Anxiety Dog Training (politepawsdogtraining.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

By Angela Doyle

I am a highly qualified dog trainer and behaviour consultant based in Surrey, UK. I am a Provisional Clinical Animal Behaviourist with the APBC, and as a fully qualified CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer) I specialise in helping people help their dogs overcome Separation Anxiety.

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